Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. I hope that everyone had a good Thanksgiving – and that all were able to forget how the Rangers closed their annual west coast road-trip.
As is always the case at this time of year; the biggest NHL talking point right now, one that’s become redundant over the years, is the following:
Since the 2005-06 season (when the NHL hard salary cap era first began – and with asterisks attached to the 2019-20 and 2021 seasons too), 76.3% of teams in a playoff spot by Thanksgiving then went on to qualify for the postseason.
Like any other statistic and/or trend – there are always exceptions.
After all, what about the other 23.7% of the teams that weren’t in playoff contention by American Thanksgiving (nearly a quarter of the league), only to later reach the postseason?
And yep, the St. Louis Blues are the most notable and greatest exception of the 23.7%.
During the 2018-19 season, the team remained in last-place at the turn of the calendar. Once Jordan Binnington took over their net – the Blues not only reached the playoffs – they won the Stanley Cup too.
Lost in this annual (and perhaps lazy) talking point/statistic? The NHL began their 2022-23 season one week late when compared to years past. In other words, most teams around the league have played twenty games, rather than the usual sample size of twenty-five games.
Should you believe that this T-Day stat holds water, and should you root for the Rangers too – then you have to be happy right now – despite all of the team’s failures and issues through their first 21 games played.
Currently, the Rangers, with a record of 10-7-4 (and let’s face it – that’s a losing record of 10-11) have 24 points in the standings.
That record is good for fourth-best in the division. They are also eight points out from the red-hot first-place New Jersey Devils.
The fifth-place Pittsburgh Penguins, who have turned it around after a slow start, are one point shy of the Rangers – but they also have a game in-hand.
If the season ended on Thanksgiving (and here’s a “duh” spoiler alert – it doesn’t), then the Rangers would finish as the first wild card team of the Eastern Conference – and with a first-round match-up against the team across the Hudson River.
Perhaps you figured this out by now, due to my tone – while the numbers/percentages do give weight to this matter – I just don’t buy it – especially not this season.
All across this “Any Given Sunday” league, you’re seeing upsets and tightly-contested games played every night.
And while you have some early Stanley Cup contenders (hot teams), such as the Bruins, Knights and Devils – there’s no way that I would proclaim that either of these three teams will go wire-to-wire.
Instead of deciding the fates of the current upper-echelon teams of the NHL; I have more confidence when predicting the futures of the present cellar-dwellers of the league.
While the Bruins, Knights and Devils should reach the playoffs; conversely, the Blue Jackets, Coyotes, Blackhawks, Canucks, Sharks and Ducks will all have a watchful eye on ping-pong balls during the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery.
Of the league’s worst teams, I believe that only the Ottawa Senators have a chance of becoming one of the “23.7%,” just because they’ve been slammed with injuries through their first nineteen games played.
There are 32 teams in the NHL, where aside from these previously mentioned teams – I think the futures of the other 22 teams, all wrestling for sixteen playoff spots, is unknown.
While yes, and just like any other season, you have both great and poor teams – I think there is more parity than we’ve ever seen before.
For example, if the season ended today, the Penguins, Panthers, Wild and Oilers would all miss the cut.
While anything can happen, I’d reckon to guess that at least one of these teams, if not all four, will still be playing, come the middle weeks of April 2023.
The main message of this intro? Don’t let the numbers fool you.
Yes, the Rangers, at least from a standings perspective, are in a good position. However, they’ve pissed away a ton of points this season, especially to bad teams (Ducks, Sharks, Blue Jackets, Predators, etc) – and the schedule only gets tougher for them from this point on.
Even just 25% into the season – I think all of these lost points will come back to haunt them – at least when it comes to seeding purposes (no home ice).
And yep, of course – the NHL Trade Deadline should change everything (and as mentioned 7896786968969 times before – you won’t stop hearing about Patrick Kane until a decision on his future is finally made) – but the Rangers need to improve during these next three months before even thinking about potential trades.
After all, if the team continues to piss points away, and finds themselves teetering with a playoff spot – why would Patrick Kane, or any other veteran, waive their no-move clause to join the Rangers?
Before doling out the grades, let me give you the usual criteria that I use whenever I do these report cards:
— Grades are given out based on production, playing to their role on the team and to the contract of a player.
For example, I expect less from a fourth line player, such as a Julien Gauthier. On the other hand, I expect a lot out of a first line player and/or high-priced player like an Artemi Panarin.
After all, we are playing in a salary cap world, where teams are constantly giving up quality players, even players they drafted, to compete.
— To ignore the salary cap hit of a player would be foolish, which is why they are considered in these grades.
Keep in mind, to me, the salary cap hit is a stat that belongs on the back of a hockey card.
When it comes to building NHL rosters, general managers look at cap hits first. They aren’t worried about Corsi’s or whatever nerd stat Valiquette has pulled out of his five-hole this week.
In addition, more times than not during this current era, you don’t see as many pure “hockey trades” when compared to bygone eras. Instead, you see more “salary-cap dump trades” than anything else.
— Players who have played less than six games with the team, players who have been traded, players who have been injured, and players who were sent down to Hartford, are all listed in the “Incomplete” section.
Lastly, and perhaps most important – these grades are just my opinions only.
In other words – don’t get bent out of shape about them!
This is just my way of assessing the current roster at this moment in the season. And if any grade is egregious, I’m sure you will let me know!
At this time, here are my grades at the 25% mark of the season! (Or to be precise, the 25.609756% mark of the 2022-23 campaign!)
Maybe this grade isn’t fair, as everyone knows the story with #91 in Rangers’ blue – he’s recovering from a major surgery and is still trying to get his game back.
At the start of the preseason, he was one of Gerard Gallant’s top six forwards. “The Turk” quickly pivoted from that once realizing that it would take some time for “BLAIS DAY” to get going and find his legs again.
In eighteen games played, primarily on the fourth line, Blais is still seeking his first goal. He currently has three assists – where none of them were memorable.
Blais’ biggest contribution to the team is his 66 hits – the most hits amongst all Ranger forwards. Only Jacob Trouba, who logs over twice as many minutes per game than Blais, has more (71).
While Blais has always been known for his checking; it should also be mentioned that more times than not, he’s chasing around the other team, rather than having Ranger opponents chase him around. Then again, that’s his new role with the Rangers, as a fourth-line checker/grinder.
Everyone will always bring up the Pavel Buchnevich trade whenever talking about Blais. However, and as repeatedly mentioned on this site – the trade of Buchnevich to St. Louis was always a salary cap move – and a way to get the younger players on the club more ice time.
With hindsight being 20/20 – it’s still tough to assess the Buchnevich/Blais trade – only because of the P.K. Slewban incident from last season. Who knows how Blais would’ve fared had that sneak attack not taken place? (Plus, there’s a future draft pick involved – but I don’t want to bog you down with the Andrew Copp trade tree right now!)
However, Slewban did slew-foot Blais, where it’s now looking like the Rangers (or to be specific, g.m. Chris Drury), could’ve received a better return in their salary-cap dump trade – but again, no one predicted a season-long injury, followed by a “getting back to it stretch of time” for Blais.
Either way – Blais has not been impressive yet thus far.
When compared to the starts of his previous seasons – Chytil has been much better at the start of this 2022-23 campaign than he has been in the past.
Of course, one must also wonder about his durability, as #72 has already missed six games due to an injury. Recurring injuries have always plagued the Czech throughout his career.
However, Chytil’s latest injury wasn’t anything of his own doing – as he suffered a concussion following a blind-side attack. Still, the fact remains that Chytil has had a few concussions before, and once you receive one – you’re prone to more-and-more of them.
One question that’s often debated about Chytil is this one – “is he a center or is he a winger?”
Due to a lack of options; he’s been a center for the majority of his run on Broadway.
Currently, Chytil, with four goals and six assists for a grand total of ten points; once again has a losing faceoff percentage stat (40%). However, and again, due to a lack of options – it’s tough to give him some time at the wing.
I think we’ve seen some growth out of the now 23-year old Chytil. His assist/point numbers could be even greater, had his pair of 21-year old linemates, the recently reunited Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko, finished on their never-ending and abundant chances.
And while I’m a big fan of Barclay Goodrow to begin with – what does it say when Chytil has had more scoring success with Goodrow by his side, rather than with the two recent lottery picks?
While I really don’t want to play this game (comparing last season to this season), this much is true – Kevin Rooney was a much better fourth-line center for the Rangers than double-deuces.
In eighteen games played, Carpenter has two points to his name – one goal and one assist. The only thing worth praising is his winning face-off percentage (55.9%).
Otherwise, Carpenter hasn’t provided much, outside of eating minutes.
While you can’t knock his hustle or drive (and the fact that he only missed one game after receiving major cuts to the side of his head and ear by an errant skate blade, injuries that would’ve ended Kravtsov’s season); Carpenter hasn’t been a factor for the team, nor in a league where you need all four lines to contribute in the scoring department.
Before you accuse me of “over-grading” the French-Canadian, keep in mind of my grading system, and the fact that #12 is only earning $800,000 this season. And oh yeah – he was a Hartford call-up too!
Put it this way: Gauthier owes the often-injured Vitali Kravtsov a steak dinner. Once Kravtsov received one of his 86786678689 injuries this season, Gauthier was recalled to the team on October 28th – and has never looked back since.
In fact, Gauthier, who must despise the city of Hartford, Connecticut, has played so well, that his performance thus far was one of the factors in the recent trade of Ryan Reaves to Minnesota. (The salary cap/cap space accrual being the other factor – and the biggest factor too.)
Gauthier, who has always shown an uncanny ability to get to the net, could never score once there.
This season, while there have been many times where he still couldn’t finish – he does have three goals in thirteen games played – his career-high in this department.
More impressive? His ability to draw penalties.
Despite mainly playing on the fourth line (he was also promoted to the top-six for a few games too), no other Ranger has drawn more penalties per-game, nor minute, than Gauthier – a result of his breakneck and blazing speed.
Every Stanley Cup champion needs an unlikely cheap cap-hit hero to emerge. Maybe Gauthier is that guy for the Rangers. He’s been noticeable in every game played, and more times than not – the most consistent forward too.
If it weren’t for Goodrow’s cap-hit of $3,641,667 – then I’d give him a grade of an A- or A.
That said, and similar to Gauthier – Goodrow is also one of the better and most consistent forwards for the Rangers.
A jack-of-all-trades player, Goodrow has played on every line for the club this season, sans the first line.
Due to Kravtsov’s inability to stay healthy; #21 was recently promoted to the Rangers’ second line. However, he’s arguably more valuable to the team as a bottom-six center – something we’ll most likely see following the deadline. – if not sooner.
The durable and reliable Goodrow has played in every single game this season and has picked up five goals and five assists (ten points) in that time. In other words, Goodrow, who doesn’t play on the power-play, has just as many goals as his new linemate, Artemi Panarin.
The Rangers’ best utility player continues to live up to his billing – and has played well.
I feel like I always say the same thing about #24 whenever I do one of these report cards – he plays well – but where is the scoring?
Prior to his recent stretch of games and boneheaded decisions with the puck; more times than not – Kakko was the best all-around forward on the ice. However, the Rangers didn’t draft him second-overall to become the second coming of Jesper Fast.
Going into the season, I said, “if Kakko is sitting on 3-4 goals after twenty games played, then there is a problem.”
He currently has four goals and four assists after 21 games played. And his -3 plus/minus stat ranks fourth-worst on the team too.
Yes, Kakko is young and you know the rest; but now in his fourth NHL season, his scoring totals remain disappointing – especially when you consider the fact that he has played a large chunk of this season on the Rangers’ first line.
The hard truth? Yes, the salary-cap influenced the off-season departures of Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, Ryan Strome and others; but the Rangers were banking on both Kakko and Lafreniere to take major steps this season. We haven’t seen those steps yet.
Do I really need to write what I’ve previously written about #74 again?
He can’t stay healthy, he’s soft, he doesn’t shoot, he doesn’t score and he’s forced upon this roster – all at the detriment of the team. Just ask Ryan Reaves.
Ever since his “TEETHGATE” fiasco and Diarrhea Debacle, the mercurial Russian hasn’t returned to the line-up. He’s been a regular healthy scratch instead.
Should the Rangers land Patrick Kane at the deadline as everyone expects – then Kravtsov should be the player going the other way.
Then again, if Kravtsov can’t work his way into the line-up, and do anything positive once there – will Chicago, or anyone else, even want him?
I hope I’m wrong. I truly do. But I believe that Kravtsov is like many other Ranger first-round busts, such as Pavel Brendl, Jamie Lundmark and the player drafted one year before Kravtsov, Lias Andersson.
I don’t know what it is, but there seems to be a “love-hate” relationship with some of this fan base and the longest-tenured Ranger.
I am not one of those people.
To be fair, there have been some games where “CASPER KREIDER” has returned – but at the same time – the team as a whole hasn’t looked that hot.
In other words, I don’t think you can point at Kreider, and say “where’s the 52 goals?”
Kreider’s nine goals scored thus far this season is second-best on the team, where only his BFF, Mika Zibanejad (10) has more. And unlike his pal – Kreider has also been able to score goals at even-strength.
As part of the team’s first power-play and penalty kill units – Kreider has played well – especially if you can take yourself away from comparing this season to last season.
Similar to his relationship with some fans, there’s also a sect of people who believe that Kreider is pissed-off about not being named team captain over the summer. I just don’t believe it – but I do think it said something that Kreider didn’t get it too.
Perhaps often lost in the back-and-forth commentary about Kreider this season? His plus/minus rating of +5 – which ties him for first on the team among all Ranger forwards (Jimmy Vesey). Only Adam Fox (+7) has a better rating.
Similar to Kakko, we all know Lafreniere’s story – the pandemic, the unorthodox start and blah-blah-blah.
That said, now in his third season (the last of his rookie contract), Lafreneire hasn’t lived up to the expectations of a first-overall pick. Not even close.
While I wouldn’t use the word “bust,” as many others do whenever talking about #13 – Ranger fans better hope that his progression will be a lengthy process – rather than this version being the best that we’ll ever see.
Sure, Lafreniere isn’t on the first power-play unit, and yes, he does crash nets (he has embraced Gallant’s physical style of hockey), but his only two goals scored in 21 games played is alarming.
I think Lafreniere remains as a “work-in-progress;” but you’d be lying to yourself if you thought that’s what was expected from him this season.
Just like Kakko, Lafreniere was thought to replace the scoring that the Rangers lost in the off-season. Instead, Lafreniere has basically replaced the physical presence of Tyler Motte.
When it comes to the youngest forwards on the team, the first-round draft picks of Kravtsov, Kakko and Lafreniere – they’ve all been disappointing.
The Rangers, their fans, and yours truly are all hoping to see better grades for this trio come my “Mid-Season Report Card.”
Yep – the salary cap hit of “The Breadman” negatively impacts this grade.
And this is also true – if I was grading #10 after 10 games played, then his grade would’ve ranged from the B+ to A- territory.
During his last eleven games, where he hasn’t scored a goal (and he barely looks to shoot either – as he’s had multiple games without recording a shot on goal), Panarin has been in an absolute funk.
However, despite his poor performances as of late; Panarin still leads the team in assists (18). However, many of these assists are of the secondary variety – and somewhat fugazi.
Panarin’s 23 points has him tied tops on the team with Adam Fox and Mika Zibanejad, but unlike #23 and #93 – #10’s points come in bunches, via multi-point games, and usually during Ranger blowouts.
Most concerning, especially when compared to Fox (+7) and Zibanejad (+3)? Panarin’s team-worst -9 plus/minus stat. His never-ending cross ice passes/turnovers is a large reason for that putrid number.
Had Panarin been able to do anything against the bottom-of-the-barrel teams of the league – then the Rangers could easily be sitting in first-place right now.
Instead, the highest-paid player on the team has watched his club slip to fourth-place in the tough Metro division – and with the schedule only getting tougher moving forward.
And don’t lose sight of this fact either – the Rangers have lost plenty of one-goal games this season, contests where #10 was hardly a factor. A goal here, a shot there, and a successful primary pass in-between – then the Rangers wouldn’t have a losing record right now.
Simply stated – Panarin has to return to form, as his recent stretch of games have been the worst of his career during his tenure on Broadway.
Has anyone been more snake-bitten than the new Rangers’ second line center? It feels like #16 has hit about 78956867676896 posts this season.
And yep, as opposed to the old #16 of this team, Ryan Strome – Trocheck doesn’t have any chemistry with Panarin – yet. However, that was expected going into the season. Also expected? This duo will pick it up, and will click too, as we approach the playoffs.
Despite all of the iron that Trocheck has found this season; he has scored seven goals through 21 games played – third-best on the team (Mika 10 goals, Kreider 9 goals).
He’s also shown a physical snarl and is usually the first player involved whenever a scrum breaks out. While his -5 plus/minus rating isn’t much to write home about, Trocheck’s 64 hits, third-best on the team, is.
Trocheck, who was brought into town largely due to his success rate at the dots, is second-best in this department – but trails only by hair. Carpenter, who leads the team with a 55.9% face-off winning percentage, is followed by Trocheck’s 55.4% face-off percentage. However, when compared to #22 – it’s #16 who faces a stronger quality of competition at the circles.
I think Trocheck will improve as the season moseys along – especially whenever he and Panarin finally get it going.
Perhaps due to the recent stretch of games, where the Rangers are in “win one, lose one mode;” the success of the now two-time Blueshirt has been swept under the rug a bit.
Put it this way: aside from Vesey, only Julien Gauthier can contend for my made-up “Comeback Ranger of the Season Award.” And even then, Vesey, who earned a $750,000 contract from Chris Drury, had to do so following a successful preseason, when he was on a PTO deal. Gauthier, despite starting the season in the AHL, already had an NHL contract secured.
Similar to the way that I’ve lumped Kakko and Lafreniere together; there’s also a lot of similarities between Vesey and Gauthier, two players who no one expected on this 2022-23 roster once the summer/off-season concluded.
The duo of right-wingers, although for different reasons, were somewhat in “last chance” mode. In turn, both #12 and #26 have done everything in their power to earn (and then maintain) a roster spot, which helped force the trade of Ryan Reaves and the healthy scratching of Vitali Kravtsov.
Vesey, who’s accepted the fact that he had to change his style of game in order to remain in the NHL, has turned into a more defensive forward.
Not only is Vesey similar to Goodrow, meaning that he’s versatile and a Swiss Army knife type of a player – he’s also the only Ranger to play on all four lines this season – where he’s currently playing on the Rangers’ first line.
Just as he did many moons ago – and with the same players too – Vesey now skates with Zibanejad and Kreider.
As a huge component of the Rangers’ penalty kill, Vesey’s play made Dryden Hunt expendable when the Rangers made their first cap-related move of the season. (Vesey also has one short-handed goal scored.)
While he’s not here for his scoring, Vesey currently has seven points. More impressive? Among all Ranger forwards, Vesey is tied with Kreider for the best plus/minus rating stat (+5).
And yes – Vesey’s plus/minus stat does reflect how well he’s been playing.
Drury’s decision to bring back Vesey into the fold has paid off tremendously – and it barely broke the Rangers’ bank in order to make it happen.
Zibanejad, now earning $8.5M this season, has played well, but it’s hard to go any higher than an A- here, and for two reasons:
One – his 47.9% losing face-off percentage, a number that’s even lower if you take neutral zone draws out of the equation.
Two – among his team-high ten goals, only two of them have been scored while at even-strength – and in the same game – a Rangers’ 8-2 blowout of the Red Wings.
Perhaps another concern, although this is not of his own doing, the following:
Being the Rangers’ first option on the power-play, where his “Ovechkinesque” one-timer from the circle is now somewhat predictable. However, since Panarin won’t shoot the puck – teams are now focusing on Zibanejad’s newly patented blast.
Those issues aside, Zibanejad, often a topic of “is he or isn’t he elite?” remains as the Rangers’ best forward.
DJ Mika not only leads the team in goals scored, he also plays on the Ranger’s first penalty kill unit, where he has one of the team’s two short-handed goals (Vesey has the other). Mika’s seven power-play goals is also tops on the team.
As far as anything else, it should be considered that Zibanejad is often prone to slow starts.
While you’d like to see him start scoring 5 vs 5 goals – #93 has had anything but a slow start this year.
Ever since the exile and then dismissal of former defenseman, Tony DeAngelo; Adam Fox has emerged as not only the best rearguard on the team – but as one of the team’s best players too.
Sans from CZAR IGOR’s 2021-22 Vezina season, and due to injuries suffered last season (where he still finished fifth-overall for the Norris Trophy) – no one has been as “elite,” nor as consistent, as the 2021 Norris Trophy winner.
While Fox’s raise from $950,000 to $9,500,000 this season hurt the Rangers from a salary-cap perspective – Fox easily earned that big bump in pay – and has been worth every penny thus far. You can’t say the same for the other highest paid players on the team.
Fox, with 6 goals and 17 assists for a grand total of 23 points, leads all Blueshirts’ defensemen in these scoring categories.
The product from Jericho, NY (you may have heard about Fox’s hometown once or 97868696 times before) remains as one of the best defensemen in all of the NHL today.
Arguably, #23 should currently be considered as the odds-on favorite for the 2023 Norris Trophy – especially since the pair of Swedes who have more points than him, Erik Karlsson (30) and Rasmus Dahlin (24) play for teams who aren’t in playoff contention (San Jose and Buffalo). (The league tends to favor players from playoff teams for individual year-end awards.)
Fox has done it all this season – the usual. His team-best plus/minus rating of +7 most definitely indicates the way he’s excelled, a stat that’s even more impressive when you consider that Fox also leads the team in TOI (24:51 played per game) – while also playing against the best talent in the league on a night-in, night-out, basis.
Hajek, who many thought the Rangers would’ve moved on from during this past summer, still remains and is currently on a contract that pays him $800,000.
The product of the Czech Republic has played in nine games this season, as he, along with Zac Jones, alternates as the Rangers’ 3LD.
One common talking point whenever talking about either defensive-defensemen or fringe blue-liners, is this one: “if you don’t notice them, then that means they are playing well.”
While I do believe that the Rangers will eventually seek out a more reliable and playoff-tested third left-defenseman at the trade deadline; for now, Hajek has been serviceable. He’s been an “Even-Steven” player, as his plus/minus rating of zero would suggest.
Admittedly, he’s had one or two games that he’d probably like back, but for the most part, Hajek has played to his role – and then some.
Why is Hajek a B- while I have Jones as a C+? Easy – Jones makes $125,000 more than Hajek – and has a -1 plus/minus rating through fourteen games played.
It’s my opinion that Jones isn’t ready for the NHL yet, and is somewhat forced upon the roster due to a lack of options.
While I don’t think that Jones should be written-off or anything as severe as that – I still think another year in Hartford, playing top-pair minutes, would’ve been better off for his development, rather than his 16:01 TOI per game – when he’s not a healthy scratch.
And similar to his rotating partner, and the player that he’s in a competition with, Hajek himself – I don’t think the 5’10” 22-year old is someone who you want in your line-up, come the playoffs, either.
Known for his offensive skills in college, Jones only has two points this season.
I was tempted to go with an A+ grade for #55, and I didn’t do so for one reason only – his partner, his pal, his former roommate, #23, Adam Fox, is truly an A+ player.
But don’t get it twisted – Lindgren has been the second-best defenseman on this team, where only a Norris Trophy winner (and candidate this season) has been more impressive.
Throughout the history of NYC sports, especially during the past 25-years, has there been any other player, aside from maybe Paul O’Neill (Yankees), who has personified the word “WARRIOR” better than Lindgren?
And while O’Neill deserved that label too – he was mainly known for punching five gallon jugs of Gatorade. In comparison, on most nights, Lindgren’s often bloody face looks as if it were on the wrong end of one of O’Neill’s frustrated swings at the all-familiar orange containers.
As previously mentioned during this report card, Lindgren’s plus/minus rating of +5 has him tied for second-best overall – where just like Fox – he also plays against the tippy-top players of the league.
Lindgren, not scared to get physical with anyone, may be asked to now drop the gloves too (he’s done so a few times during his career), especially with the recent departure of Ryan Reaves.
A new wrinkle to Lindgren’s improving game? A more offensive presence, as his 26 SOG would suggest.
Yes, I’m disappointed in what I’ve seen out of Miller thus far, although admittedly – perhaps I set the bar too high on #79 – a player on the last year of his rookie contract.
Like many at the start of the season, I also thought that Miller could steal a Norris vote or two this season.
While he has 75% of the season to turn it around (and if you remember what he did last season – that’s what pretty much happened – he turned it around); I don’t see him stealing one Norris vote from Fox come the NHL Year-End Awards.
In what’s been alarming, Miller has been routinely beat by opposing forwards. His plus/minus rating of -3 (tied for third-worst on the team) would be even worse than that, had it not been for the two Ranger goalies in net.
Furthermore, no other NHL duo has been on the ice for more even-strength goals allowed than the Trouba/Miller pairing.
One of the reasons many thought that Miller would make a huge leap this year was because he showed a ton of offensive presence, both towards the end of last season and during this preseason.
Following 21 games played, Miller who does have six assists (mainly secondary assists), has yet to score a goal.
Fortunately, Miller, who has never used his imposing 6’5″ frame to scare anyone, has recently started to accept the NHL’s brand of physicality. He currently has 36 hits and isn’t shying away from contact as he once did.
(There was a reason why he was once called the “PRAYING MANTIS” by former head coach, David Quinn, during Miller’s rookie year – as he opted to make poke/stick checks, albeit successful ones, rather than blasting opponents with fearsome hits.)
I also think that the injured Jacob Trouba has negatively impacted Miller’s start this season. However, we’ll talk more about the captain after recapping the next player on this report card.
Schneider, now with a new jersey number on his back (the former #45 now wears #4), hasn’t had a “sophomore jinx” to speak of.
As the team’s 3RD, Schneider has scored two goals and two assists (four points) in twenty-one games played. He also has a plus/minus rating of +2.
Similar to what I said about one of his rotating 3LD partners, Hajek; Schneider hasn’t been that noticeable – in a GOOD way.
Aside from one blah game, Schneider has been a stud defensively and you never notice him making turnovers, getting lost in coverage, or anything else that could be deemed negative.
Nicknamed as “Baby Troubs;” you can argue that Schneider (32 blocks and 28 hits during his average TOI of 14:48) has been more effective than Trouba himself.
This grade obviously comes with this disclaimer, and something that I’ve repeated for the past month on this site: Trouba is playing through injuries.
I recently compared Trouba to Shattenkirk’s start in New York. Now as the team captain – #8 doesn’t want to disappoint anyone.
Rather than taking some time off to heal, rest and get back to 100%; instead, Trouba, just like his team-high 56 blocked shots and team-high 71 hits too, has sacrificed himself for the team – no matter how much this negatively impacts all of his offensive, defensive and plus/minus stats.
If it weren’t for his injuries (and when factoring in his $8,500,000 salary into the equation), I would have given him a failing grade. However, when you take everything into account, I think this C+ grade is fair.
While Trouba continues to provide a physical presence despite his injuries; he’s still without a goal in 21 games played. His plus/minus stat of -5 is also second-worst on the team (Panarin is -9).
This all said, I think Trouba is now starting to make a full path to recovery, as he has been better lately. I expect this grade to improve once we get to the mid-point of the season.
All you have to do is read my six game reviews from this season whenever Halak started – although his last game played, his 3-2 loss to the Ducks, forced his grade to take a hit. Had that game not taken place, then I would’ve had Halak somewhere in the B- through B+ range.
That said, I don’t think any of Halak’s stats really tells you the true story of how his season has gone thus far.
Currently, “The Halakness Monster” has a record of 0-5-1, a .881 save percentage and a GAA of 3.20 – where all of these numbers were inflated, or should I say “deflated;” following the loss against the Ducks.
The fact of the matter is what I’ve been saying all season – Halak receives no goals in support.
In his six games played, the Rangers have scored only seven goals – and two or more goals in only two of these games. (The disgusting choked-away loss to the Islanders and the Ducks.)
I know that many want Halak out of town, but I don’t know what these people expected from him.
Keep in mind, these same people thought that the player that Halak succeeded, Alexandar Georgiev, was the Saddam Hussein of goaltenders.
Look at Georgiev’s stats today.
As far as Halak goes, he’s at the end of his career. He’s not a budding goaltender, looking to earn a starter’s job as Georgiev once did – and now has done.
And really – you don’t want someone trying to push Igor out of net either – you want a back-up who will support him – and the Rangers also have to support Halak too – seven goals for won’t cut it.
I know that Halak’s stats are disastrous, but I have trouble placing 100% of the blame on him too.
If the season ended today, then #31, last year’s Vezina Trophy winner, wouldn’t even be considered for the 2023 award.
To go even further, he wouldn’t even finish as high as fifth-overall either. However, I do expect all of that to change.
Currently, CZAR IGOR has a 10-2-3 record, a .917 save percentage and a 2.38 GAA. Great numbers all things considered – but not Vezina worthy.
As stated numerous times on this site, I do think that having a new baby in his house has impacted his training, preparation, sleep and schedule. The fact that he has better stats on the road than at home also leads me to believe this.
As the season moseys along, I think CZAR IGOR will find a routine that works best.
While he does have one shut-out to his name (a 1-0 overtime win against the Flyers); what plagued him last season still remains – he’s prone to giving up one “WTF” goal per game – and then slamming the door after doing so. That’s why he’s led the league in one-goal allowed games since entering the NHL.
After a start to the season that was beneath him, #31 has picked it up lately.
CZAR IGOR, who somewhat made Adam Fox a “secondary story” last season; should improve – and then contend once again for the team’s MVP award – with Fox.
DRYDEN HUNT was waived by the Rangers on October 19th. A day later, the reigning-and-defending Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche, claimed him.
Having only played three games with the Blueshirts this season; Hunt became a victim of the numbers game – especially with the ascension of Jimmy Vesey.
RYAN REAVES was just covered during my last blog on this site: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/112322/
In twelve games played this season, “The Grim Reaver” went scoreless and finished with a plus/minus rating of -5.
It’s tough to assess “The Turk;” but then again – I tend to blame players more than I blame coaches.
If there’s anything bothersome about Gallant this season, it’s that he doesn’t get too fired up following bad losses. Then again, he is supposed to be the calming influence during stormy times.
However, his same old quotes, “we played hard, we worked hard, and blah-blah-blah,” have grown tiresome.
A lot that went right last season hasn’t gone right for the team this season, including puck luck, CZAR IGOR standing on his head, special teams, injuries and so forth.
In addition, Gallant doesn’t have as many options this season, due to those three lovely words, “the salary cap.”
Gallant no longer has the luxuries to endlessly tinker around with his line-up, as if he were running a fantasy football team. Instead, he’s being stripped of parts, as Chris Drury plans ahead for the deadline – something that I’m sure “The Turk” is fine with.
As was the case last season, more times than not, Gallant’s in-game coaching decisions usually produce results, whether it be taking timeouts, shuffling the lines and deciding when and when not to pull his goalie.
Since Ranger fans can be fickle, there are already “HOT FOR TROTZ” rumblings – but is it Gallant’s fault that Kakko, Lafreniere and Kravtsov haven’t shown up often on the scoreboard, if at all?
And what’s the bench boss supposed to do with Panarin, who has just hit a wall? And yeah, you can bring up Trouba’s injuries too.
I think Gallant will have to weather this storm and just get to the deadline with the team holding or flirting with a playoff spot.
FINAL CONCLUSIONS & PREDICTIONS
Well this went longer than expected – but I think I wrote so much out of concern.
The biggest concern prior to Wednesday, was how the Rangers only had two days of accruing extra-cap space, due to carrying 23-men. The Reaves trade changed all of that, and now Drury and company are in a good position to land playoff reinforcements at the deadline.
For as quick as the rebuild was, the Rangers now have a core, theoretically in their prime or approaching their prime – and need to WIN NOW.
While the salary cap should exponentially increase over the years, the players will age and regress too. We may be already seeing it with Panarin.
There are not that many teams in the league that have perennial candidates (and winners) for NHL Year-End Awards. The Rangers have to hope that Panarin (former Hart Trophy candidate) figures it out and that Fox & Shestyorkin can continue to dominate too.
Maybe I’m a bit delusional, as the losing record would suggest otherwise – but I do think Gallant and his team will figure it out.
And while this is cliche too – once in the playoffs, I do think that last year’s run/experience will only help them once there.
A few parting words on tomorrow’s game against the Oilers before going home.
The Rangers, after flying home on Thanksgiving, returned to practice on Black Friday.
There were two things to note from Gallant’s lines – the head coach is going all-out to get Panarin going and still remains fed-up with Kravtsov.
Here were Friday’s practice lines and the line-up that we should see on Saturday against the Oilers:
FIRST LINE: Panarin/Mika/Kreider
SECOND LINE: Vesey/Trocheck/Goodrow
THIRD LINE: Lafreniere/Chytil/Kakko
FOURTH LINE: Blais/Carpenter/Gauthier
FIRST PAIR: Lindgren/Fox
SECOND PAIR: Miller/Trouba
THIRD PAIR: Hajek/Schneider
STARTING GOALIE: CZAR IGOR
BACK-UP: Jaroslav Halak
Following the practice, Gallant held his daily “TURK TALK.” Here it is:
Gallant, as he always does, defended his team – and also told everyone that they shouldn’t be talking about a lack of chemistry between Trocheck and Panarin.
By saying that, and while I understand what the head coach meant – he’s only bringing more attention to that narrative.
In a rarity, and because there were only two beat reporters there (the older & established ones, and not the clueless millennials) – the subject of Kravtsov remaining as a healthy scratch wasn’t brought up.
To his credit, Gallant admitted that he thinks his team should have a better record – but there’s nothing he can do about the current record now. All he can do is improve it moving forward.
Currently, there are no odds released between these two teams with plenty of trading history between each other, and two clubs who are both experiencing rough patches.
I’d expect the Rangers to be favored, due to their status as the home team – but anything over -115 would be ludicrous.
The loss to the ugly ducklings was pathetic. A win over the Oilers, followed by a win over the Devils, would help big-time.
However, and as the phrase goes, “One Game at a Time.”
Kick the Oil Cans.
I hope you enjoyed this deep-dive at the team. Back at it tomorrow, with a NYR/EDM game review.
And should you be looking to spend money on this “BLACK FRIDAY” – then buy my books, which brings us to…
My first plug of tonight’s blog – the mandatory plug for my book, “The New York Rangers Rink of Honor and the Rafters of Madison Square Garden.”
As mentioned previously, the book is now available in hardcover, in paperback and in Kindle formats. To purchase a copy of the book, visit this link:
For those still looking for signed paperback versions of the book, I have re-ordered more copies. I now have a few signed copies for sale at $25 a pop (includes shipping price) through me directly. Here is all the information on that:
My four-volume set of books, “One Game at a Time – A Season to Remember,” is a game-by-game recount of the Rangers 2021-22 campaign.
My second title as an author, “One Game at a Time – A Season to Remember,” is now available in eBook, paperback and hardcover formats.
To obtain signed copies, visit: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/onegamebook/
To purchase all four volumes on Amazon, visit: Amazon.com – “One Game at a Time.”
“Tricks of the Trade – A Century-Long Journey Through Every Trade Made In New York Rangers’ History,” a four-volume set of books that meticulously covers every trade made in franchise history, is now on sale.
All four volumes of the title can be purchased on Amazon.com and are presented in three different formats – eBook, paperback and hardcover.
To purchase Volume I: Conn Smythe (1926) – Craig Patrick (1986), visit Amazon.com
To purchase Volume II: Phil Esposito (1986) – Neil Smith (2000), visit Amazon.com
To purchase Volume III: Glen Sather (2000-2015), visit Amazon.com
To purchase Volume IV: Jeff Gorton (2015) – Chris Drury (2022), visit Amazon.com
To purchase signed copies of all four volumes, visit https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/tricksofthetrade/
Here are my last few blogs, in case you missed them:
NYR/ANA 11/23 Review: Rangers Trade Ryan Reaves For Scoring Help; Get Absolutely Embarrassed By the Worst Team in the NHL, Find-A-Way-to-Lose Blueshirts Play Slump-Buster Again (DING!), Too Many Excuses for Another Inexcusable Failure; M$GN’s Broadcast Just as Horrendous, Halak The Horrible, Puny Panarin & More
NYR/LAK 11/22 Review: Roller-Coaster Rangers Escape LA; Blueshirts Finally Receive Breaks, Kreider Lifts Kakko; CZAR IGOR Carries Team, Lindgren = Unsung Hero, Gallant’s Moves Pay Off, Feckless First But a Fantastic Finish, Fox Keeps Streak Alive & More
NYR/SJS 11/19 (NSFW) Review: Rangers Eke Out Victory Over Struggling Sharks (But At Least They Won); Gauthier & CZAR IGOR Prevent Full-Blown Panic; The Odd Math of 12 >74+75, Panarin = Not a NRA Member; Horseshoes & Hand Grenades Kaapo Kakko, M$G Hearts EK65, Gallant, What’s Next & More
If you haven’t already, subscribe to this blog for the next update:
Don’t forget to order my new four-volume set of books, “Tricks of the Trade!”
If you don’t order through me, all four volumes are now available on Amazon.com
For more details, check out: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/tricksofthetrade/
Thanks for reading.
LET’S GO RANGERS!
@NYCTHEMIC on the Tweeter machine